California blaze grows to 140,000-plus acres

Residents stand on their roof Tuesday as a wildfire burns near their home in Glendale, California.
A Southern California wildfire has grown to 140,150 acres as firefighters stay focused Wednesday on foothill areas north of Los Angeles, a U.S. Forest Service official said.

The Station Fire remains 22 percent contained, and no further structures have burned, Mike Dietrich, the Forest Service’s incident commander, said at a news conference early Wednesday. Since the wildfire began a week ago, 62 houses and three commercial buildings have burned. The state of California has spent $21 million so far fighting the fire, which has spread into the San Gabriel Wilderness Area of the Angeles National Forest. Cooler, more humid air helped firefighters set controlled backfires Tuesday on the slopes just above foothill communities, robbing the wildfire of fuel that threaten thousands of homes. A fierce fight was waged Tuesday to save a key communications complex and historic observatory atop Mount Wilson. The collection of towers is vital for government communications and nearly 50 radio and TV stations. Fire retardant dropped from the air and firefighters clearing brush helped protect Mount Wilson, at least temporarily. Thousands of evacuees were allowed to return home Tuesday evening, because of growing confidence among fire officials. The spread of the fire was expected to slow overnight because of cooler temperatures and higher humidity. Watch as some homeowners say they’re not ready to leave »

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However, as of late Tuesday, mandatory evacuation orders remained in place for 2,000 homes in the communities of La Canada, La Crescenta and Acton. A thick blanket of clouds rolled over the Los Angeles area early Tuesday, lowering the temperature and raising humidity, a combination that slowed the flames’ spread. See photos of the wildfire » Firefighters are “fighting for every foot” of land, Dietrich said Tuesday. Firefighters took advantage of Tuesday’s weather to set backfires near homes on the hillsides above Glendale and other foothill towns. Watch how residents are trying to save homes » It is unclear what caused the fire, which charred an area that had not seen a major fire in more than 60 years. Two firefighters, overtaken by fast-moving flames, lost their lives in a crash Sunday. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger declared a state of emergency Friday as a result of the Station Fire. He also proclaimed a state of emergency on Tuesday in San Bernardino County, east of Los Angeles, where the Oak Glen Fire had scorched more than 1,000 acres. That fire was about 60 percent contained, fire officials said Tuesday. The Pendleton Fire, also in San Bernardino, had burned nearly 900 acres by late Tuesday and was threatening 400 residences, according to fire officials. The blaze was 60 percent contained. Schwarzenegger had declared states of emergency in Placer, Monterey and Mariposa counties because of fires. Watch governor urge residents to leave homes »

For the first time in California, firefighters on Monday used an Evergreen 747 Supertanker, which dropped 19,000 gallons of retardant on the fires. “We have some new tools in the toolbox,” California State Fire Chief Del Walters said Tuesday.